We start our new year with an old question: “Why?” Why follow Jesus? With so many options to choose from concerning what we may follow in life, why choose to follow Jesus? The book of Ephesians lays out a compelling case for why following Jesus is the only appropriate response to God’s decisive action in the world. Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus can be divided into two parts. First, Paul makes sure his readers are certain of what God has done for them in Christ. Second, he moves to help his readers understand how their lives must be reordered to reflect the new foundation Christ offers. The two parts of Paul’s letters can be summed up like this: “You have been made alive in Christ; now live!” Why follow Jesus? Because God has made you alive through Jesus and you now have the opportunity to truly live.
We often use the phrase, my church, to refer to the place we go on Sunday mornings. It’s common to discuss what I like about my church, what I don’t like about my church, how my church is changing, and what my church is doing or saying about a particular issue. Although this kind of language and commentary is pervasive enough to become background noise in most church foyers or fellowship halls, there is only one person who can truly say, “my church.”
In Matthew 16:18b Jesus says, “…I will build my church…” The church, forever and always, belongs to Jesus. It is his possession, not ours. In addition, Jesus is the one who makes and fashions the church according to his will, not ours. So what is the church according to Jesus?
This series focuses on the Church’s Mission.
In Scripture we see that part of God’s nature is that He is self-disclosing or self-revealing. God longs not only to know His creation but for His creation to know Him. Advent anticipates and celebrates God’s full self-revelation in Jesus. Throughout Scripture, God reveals glimpses of His character in order to prepare people for the full revelation in Jesus. Biblical scholars use the word “theophany” to describe times when God appears and reveals a piece of His character. When broken down, this Greek word simply means “God appearance” (theos=God, phaino=appear). In each appearance we should pay special attention to what we can learn about God’s presence with us. By walking chronologically through occasions of God appearing prior to that first Christmas, our hope is to experience the same anticipation the Israelites experienced waiting for their Messiah. They had caught glimpses of God but were waiting for God to finally reveal ALL of Himself in the Messiah. We know the Messiah did come, and God was fully revealed at Christmas.
As we learned in Mark 10:52, a disciple is someone who follows Jesus. The Gospel of Mark helped us answer the question, "Who am I following?" We will now ask and answer the second question of discipleship, “How do I follow?” The Bible’s blueprint for how a disciple is made can be summarized in three words: connect, grow, and serve. These three words connect to the mission Jesus gave His Church. They can help make that mission memorable and allow us to carry that mission with us on our spiritual journey. In John 15, Jesus illustrates how we are to connect, grow, and serve in Him and for Him, saying, “I am the vine; you are the branches….This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” With a better understanding of who Jesus is, we must now have an understanding of how to follow Him. The Upper Room Discourse (John 13-17) will be our guide as we seek clarity on how disciples are to follow Jesus.
The mission of the Williamsburg Community Chapel is to make disciples. Simply put, a disciple is someone who follows Jesus. Natural questions that arise from such a declaration are, "Who is this person that I am following? What is He like? Is He worthy of my life?" This series will answer these questions by focusing on the nature of God, His character, and how He works in the world. Each sermon will take an episode from the Gospel of Mark and examine what that passage reveals about God, who revealed Himself in Jesus.
This year we have studied what the church could and should look like when it is built upon Christ. We looked through the lens of Jesus’ words in Matthew 16:18, “...upon this rock, I will build My Church” as we studied First and Second Corinthians, Matthew, and Galatians. As we move toward the summer, we will continue studying this theme from the book of Judges. Judges gives us the picture of a community that attempts to lay its own foundation apart from Jesus: foundations of control, comfort, greed, self-reliance and subjective morality.
Our simplified worship services will help focus our Summer Bible Study as we learn what community looks like when we “do that which is right in our own eyes” (Judges 19:25 KJV), and together we will gain a deeper understand of why it is exceedingly important to hear Jesus’ call to build “My Church.”
Over the next seven weeks we will study the book of Galatians. Galatians is famous for its beautifully crafted statements on the message and meaning of the Gospel, and from it we can also learn about the life of its author, Paul. Galatians helps us track the transformative process God used to move Paul from persecutor of the church to co-laborer with Jesus in the building of the church. As we look at how God transformed Paul’s life, it should become clear that God’s intention is to transform us and call us into the work of building the church alongside Him. The early church used the word apostle to describe the people who were sent out to build His church. Apostle literally means "sent one." As we study Galatians and look at the life of the Apostle Paul, we will be instructed to hear Jesus’ call sending us to participate with Him to accomplish what He declared in Matthew 16:18, "...upon this rock, I will build My Church."
During this season of Lent, we will prepare for Easter by studying the Gospel of Matthew. In the first Gospel, Jesus teaches extensively on five specific occasions. His words challenge us to ponder the values of God’s Kingdom, and learn about true discipleship. Our hope is that by studying the five major sections of Jesus’ Teaching in the Gospel of Matthew, we will better understand the clear call Jesus makes on His disciples and learn how to put these important Words into Practice. As we continue to focus on Jesus’ statement in Matthew 16:18 that the church is His and not ours, Jesus’ teachings will provide a proper blueprint to know what He wants His church to look like. Our prayer is that His words also ready our hearts in anticipation of celebrating His resurrection. Our series will be aided by several resources including N.T. Wright’s devotional, "Lent for Everyone – Matthew". As a body, we will study God’s Word through congregational blogs, worship services, community events and shared resources in an attempt to grow closer to God and each other during this 40 day journey.
We often use the phrase “my church” to refer to the community of faith that we call home. It’s common to discuss what I like about “my church,” what I don’t like about “my church,” how my “my church” is changing, and what “my church” is doing about the future. It’s common enough that we usually don’t think twice about it. But it’s worth a second look.
Following a major “a ha” moment with His disciples about His identity as the savior of the world, Jesus said to Peter, “…you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). There is a lot that can be mined from this scene with the disciples, and a key nugget is Jesus’ claim that the church is His, not mine. The church exists to serve Jesus’ purposes, not our preferences. We are trustees, not owners. Do we see it this way? What are Jesus’ purposes for His church?
Jesus has made us stewards over His church—His primary vehicle for reaching and saving a lost world. In Matthew 16, Jesus concludes his declaration to Peter with, “…and the gates of Hell will not overcome it.” Nothing can stop God at work through “my church” when it is truly His church. As we study this theme in 2014, may we dig deep into what Jesus desires for My Church.